Ride Time: Approx 3 hours round trip
Allow a total of 4-8 hours depending on stops
Skill: Basic experience is enough for most of the Loop. The possible exception is Mon Cham. The last 1km is very steep so beginner riders may want to skip this stop. If you’re unsure you can easily give it a try and turn around if you’re not comfortable with the road.
Motorbike: Ideally 300cc or more for the hills but it can easily be done on a 125cc scooter. If you’re riding with a passenger on a 125cc scooter, some of the hills will be painfully slow.
Overview: This is an excellent day ride and allows you to escape tourists, traffic and experience semi-rural areas. There are countless options for food and coffee and plenty to see. Within a month of completing it for the first time, I returned 3 more times! Driving to and from the mountains is dull and the traffic can get heavy, but once you enter the mountainous areas (the majority of the ride) its worth it!
Petrol stations are scarce in the mountain areas (majority of the loop). Fill up before you leave, or at least before you enter the windy mountain roads. If you’re running low there’s a petrol station in Samoeng.
Here are some recommended stops, assuming you complete the loop in an Anti-Clockwise direction (ie head north from Chiang Mai, then west when you get to Mae Rim).
Coffee Stop: Between Cafe
Set back from the road and next to a private residence, this secluded coffee shop overlooks a river and lush green forest. Parking is near the roadside entrance, then walk 100m and you’ll find it to the right of the 2 story home.
Coffee/Scenic Stop: Mon Cham
This is an optional sidet rip within the Loop but worthwhile. Many people come to this area just to see Mon Cham. One of the highest points in the region, the temperature at Mon Cham is usually about 5 degrees Centigrade cooler than Chiang Mai. Food and drinks are available and can be enjoyed in the huts (shown below) overlooking the valley. The fresh and and views are wonderful!
Lunch Stop: Proud Phu Fah (restaurant and resort)
Return to the main loop road (the 1096), turn right, and its a short drive to this hidden gem. Its so quiet that of the 4+ times I’ve eaten there, not once have I seen another customer! Look carefully for the small service road on the left and the restaurant will be about 100m in. Park in front of the gift shop, walk through this entrance:
Then follow the short path to the restaurant.
The menu offers Thai and western dishes and offers excellent photos to stimulate your appetite.
Coffee Stop: Samoeng Center
Samoeng is a small, quiet town. Visiting the Samoeng Center coffee shop will take you along the main street of Samoeng. An opportunity to take in the serenity of rural Thai life.
Finishing the Samoeng Loop:
By now you’ve probably had enough coffee or mango smoothies to power you home to Chiang Mai. You can enter your hotel into your phone map, or follow this link back to Chiang Mai (the Southwest corner of the Old City)
The route home will continue along the mountain roads to Hang Dong and then north to Chiang Mai. There are various routes back. I recommend staying east of the airport (per the Route Map at the top of this article) as the road west of the airport features slow traffic signal changes.
You’ll see many wonderful lookouts, restaurants, hotels, and of course coffee shops on this trip. Those listed above are my favorites from many stops during 6 laps of the loop. If you find any you prefer, feel free to share 🙂